What does “Confetti” mean in Italian?

Sicilians, like many other Mediterranean people, give little gifts of sugared almonds to all their friends when celebrating the key events in their lives. If they are fancily wrapped sugared almonds, they are called confetti. If the almonds also have a gift attached, the whole thing is called a bomboniera.

Sicilians take this art form to a higher level than any other people, and they attach more importance to them than anyone else.

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You give friends, relations, acquaintances and neighbours confetti or a bomboniera when you get married, when your baby is born, and christened, and when your child has first communion. You give them for every life-changing event you live through, as a way of requesting good wishes from everyone. You have better not miss anyone out, for that would be one of the many unforgivable social gaffes that can make living in Sicily feel like picking your way through a minefield for outsiders.

The almonds as well as the packaging have special colours. Weddings are white, baby boys have light blue and girls have pink. The confetti for a first communion are usually yellow. When you get your degree, you give everyone confetti in red. For your silver wedding anniversary you can actually get sugared almonds coated in edible silver.

There’s a whole cultural background to know in this art form, for not only do you have to get the right colours, but you have to know the symbolism of different types of flowers, or animals, or even materials used.

Confetti are for celebrations, so the only important life event which is not commemorated by giving them out is a funeral. Eating the sugared almonds you have received is a way of bringing good fortune and good wishes – auguri – to the person who gave them. The confetti for any social event will cost several hundred euros, but even poor people always spend money on them, which shows how important they are considered.

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Each slice of these “cakes” are made of porcelain and have sugared almond inside.

Bombonieri are so beautifully wrapped and decorated that their creation is an art form. When people have eaten the almonds, they usually save the gift and display it in their glass cabinet, or somewhere else in the house, as a memento of the wedding or christening party they enjoyed. Glass and silver are popular materials for bomboniere gifts.

When ordering confetti, you first choose the almonds: some are not just coated with coloured sugar, but have a layer of chocolate or other flavours between the almond and the sugar layer. Then you work on the design together with the shopkeeper, choosing from her massive selection of ribbons, materials, figurines, silver trinkets, porcelain and glasswares. You collect your confetti a few weeks later when she has made them all.

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Sugared almonds for confetti
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A shop that makes confetti and bombonieri.
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A view of the confetti shop window

I found a website based in Sicily which supplies all the paraphernalia for confetti online. Their online calatogues are simply amazing.

This “cake” is the traditional form of bomboniere for a christening party. If you look carefully, each slice of the “cake” is actually a little cardboard box. It has sugared almonds wrapped in coloured material inside, and a little gift on the top.

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The variety of confetti available is limited only by the confetti-maker’s imagniation. I had never seen one like this before – it’s a two-tier cake made of nappies! Where do the almonds go, I wonder? And would anyone want to eat them?

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I AM STILL ON HOLIDAY IN ENGLAND TILL THE END OF AUGUST. THE WEATHER HERE HAS BEEN ABOUT 36 OR 37 DEGREES FOR THE LAST MONTH, WHICH HUBBY (WHO IS AT HOME WORKING OVERTIME) TELLS ME IS HOTTER THAN SICILY THIS YEAR.

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15 thoughts on “What does “Confetti” mean in Italian?

    1. Here in the Cotswolds we had another roasting day at 36 degrees C yesterday, then this morning a spectacular thunderstorm that cut off the electricity to the whole neighbourhood! now it’s warm and muggy again.
      BTW no I don’t miss the Italian mosquitoes, as I have about 8 million flies keeping me company here!

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  1. I do enjoy your articles! I am a good friend of Guy’s and I’d love to meet you. My daughter was very ill with Lyme disease some 25 years ago, a life changing experience to say the least. I have just shown your confetti article to Guy and he will be in touch.

    Warm regards

    Eliana

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  2. It’s amazing that such an ancient fertility custom morphed its way into so many other life ceremonies and become so commercial to boot. Used to be that wedding guests threw confetti at the newly weds instead of the other way around. I recall my time as the generic flower girl for numerous family weddings. No such honor ever went unpunished however as I was always assigned the tedious task of stuffing thousands of little net bags and various other containers with Jordan almonds. No fancy shops like you show here back then. Meno male because the very first equation I ever learned had to do with these little confections: 3 or 5 almonds for each wedding guest. God forbid a miscount as only a odd number assured that the first born would be a boy. The idea that I could control the gender of potential cousins was a heavy burden and great responsibility and I took it seriously. When one I my aunts had a girl first, I just knew in my heart that I had somehow miscounted and it was my fault that it was a she and not a he.

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    1. Rosaria I LOVE your cultural insights and amazing knowledge of old Sicilian traditions! I had always wondered why confetti almonds only come in threes or fives. Now I know! It’s a good job you miscounted a few times, otherwise all those male Sicilians would have had to get foreign wives like me to drive them nuts!
      It reminds me of the old greeting/blessing that people still use (though usually a little tongue in cheek to be honest) – “Auguri e figli maschi” = “Good luck and male children!”

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  3. As much as I’d like to think otherwise, my impression is that Sicilian society is still pretty strongly patriarchal. The notion that boys are considered a little more important than girls is supported by numerous other sayings such as when someone sneezes “Salute e un figlio masche” “Health and a son”) or a wish for a new bride “Cuntintizza e figgi masculi ” (“Contentment and sons”). One of my favorite scenes in Godfather I was during daughter Connie’s wedding when the big lug Luca Brasi practiced the speech he had prepared for Don Corleone, “I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your home on the wedding day of your daughter. And may their first child be a masculine child.” BTW only two of my uncles married non- Sicilians, both blue eyed blond Scandinavians who learned Sicilian and made great spies at extended family functions.

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    1. You’re right that this mentality still exists widely. My mother in law congratulated me most sincerely on producing a male grandchild. She actually said “Boys are better than girls” to me as soon as he was born. I answered “None of them are better than me,” (which would be the only acceptable response in my family) and she has never forgiven me.

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  4. Hi, this was very interesting as this habbit is growing in Germany, too. I have seen that usually are given 5 almonds with a little poem, what the 5 almonds are standing for. Thank you for this interesting information.
    Best greetings, Johanna

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